For some time, I’ve been trying to think about what lessons games have for teaching. At the always invigorating Ted Talks, Scott Kim makes me wonder if I should also be thinking about puzzles. Kim defines a puzzle as a problem that is fun to solve and has a right answer. Games, he argues, have no “right answer.”
In teaching, we are often trying to get students to come to a “right answer.” (Indeed, students come to expect that there is always a right answer, somewhere in the back of the book somewhere. One of the hardest things to convey to students is how often the answer to a question is, “I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does know.”) To help students remember the “right answer,” we give students problems.
Problems are easy to make; puzzles are hard to make. The problem keeps coming back to, “How do you make it fun?” Some people play games to entertain themselves, but others play to challenge themselves.